Interview with Michael Bailey, 4RO Rockhampton/Gladstone

MICHAEL BAILEY: Good morning to you. It’s now 19 minutes past 7 o’clock. As promised, the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Barney Joyce is online. Good morning to you. Look, I must say, welcome back to Queensland, because you’ve been blocked for how many months now?

BARNABY JOYCE: The last time I had an opportunity to come up I was in Central Queensland as well, so it’s great to be back but obviously COVID’s made it a little bit difficult. Even this time, I just can’t quite get it. This Omicron variant is everywhere – that’s my kid at the pool at Tewantin, so if you want to know what that is in the background.

MICHAEL BAILEY: That’s all good.

BARNABY JOYCE: Yeah, this Omicron’s variant’s everywhere. I think we’ve just got to learn to live with it. When you have 120,000 people tested and 45,000 people have it, you can basically say it’s everywhere, so let’s just learn to live with it. Let’s thank God that it’s a very mild variant. Probably in the long term a bit of a help to us, honestly. It’s highly virulent and mild. It’s probably the one we want to get before the next variant turns up, which mightn’t be mild.

MICHAEL BAILEY: Barnaby Joyce, you must be a bit upset about the lack of food and services getting through. It’s all boiled down to COVID. I mean, everyone’s getting it. But the trouble is the truckies, everything, is just slowing everything down. I think there should be a national inquiry because I went to one of the big supermarkets yesterday – no toilet paper. What is the story about that?

BARNABY JOYCE: People go to hoarding things again. It’s just ridiculous. Hoarding toilet paper, hoarding RAT tests, hoarding other vegetables and things. The close contact rules are changing so that basically if you’re in a critical industry you don’t have to isolate and I think that’s the way it’s got to go. My personal views – and I can give you my personal views – it’s everywhere. If people went along with a big flashing light above their head saying they had Omicron, I think you’d be absolutely amazed on how it is in every section of the community. For a while there we didn’t know anybody who had had COVID. Now we know heaps and heaps and heaps and heaps of people who’ve got COVID with Omicron. Overwhelmingly – overwhelmingly – it’s mild and if you’re double vaxxed, to be quite frank you hardly know you’ve got it.

MICHAEL BAILEY: Now, tell me about Maryborough, because they’re going through a crisis of their own. It looks like their levee has collapsed, it’s not working. The inner town is being flooded. There’s emergency relief going out to the citizens of Maryborough, isn’t there?

BARNABY JOYCE: My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Maryborough. Yes, we evacuating the town. We’ve got aid coming through. People who can show they’ve been affected, there’s $1,000 per adult and $100 per child. We also have an ongoing basic wage supplement for those who have been affected by it. Obviously, you have to show that you are affected by it. You can’t just say, “Well, I should have it,” obviously. And that’s right and proper. My thoughts obviously are to look for the girl, obviously it’s pretty dire, but, you know, my thoughts are also with the people who have really been affected and, of course, you can’t be more affected than losing a family member. This area is very aware about floods. They get them all the time. It doesn’t make them any better, but they manage them as best they can.

MICHAEL BAILEY: Yeah, it must have been devastating when the levee collapsed. Look, Senator Matt Canavan, Ken O’Dowd, Colin Boyce and yourself are in Gladstone today to Auckland Hill. I love that little café on top of Auckland Hill. Fantastic. What are you doing there?

BARNABY JOYCE: Everyone knows the election’s coming up. We’ve got to let people make a valued judgement. For our part, it’s being behind the coal industry, being behind mining jobs, not trading life for inner suburban Sydney seat votes and making sure that the message you hear from us in Gladstone, the message you hear from me is the same message I’d be giving to someone at Ultimo in Sydney, or in the West End of Brisbane. The Nats are very proud of the fact we went into bat for people in the mining industry, making sure that they keep their job, standing behind them and informing Australia that if it wasn’t for the mining industry you wouldn’t have the things that we’ve got. That’s the same that we’ve done in the past with the cattle industry, the live cattle trade, coal miners, all these things which might be politically incorrect in the southern capitals, but we make sure that we loudly and clearly speak up for you because it’s your right to have a well-paid job. It’s also other people’s right to know that if it wasn’t for the work you do in the coal industry and the cattle industry and the mining industry, we wouldn’t have the standard of living we’ve got. For our part, building Inland Rail, continuing it from Toowoomba down to Gladstone so we’ve got a rail corridor that goes from Gladstone down to Melbourne. That’s crucial and that’s what I’m going to be delivering as part of my role as Deputy Prime Minister and a former Senator for Queensland and doing my very best to make sure that we gain the confidence to be supported once more by the great people of Central Queensland.

MICHAEL BAILEY: Now, Barnaby, it’s gone off the boil, but I just thought I’d mention it again because I’m a big believer in the Inland Rail. How’s it going? Is it actually going to head towards Gladstone?

BARNABY JOYCE: I’ve already got the business plan going for that and, yes, that business plan I believe will stack up and that’ll happen. Basically, if the business plan stacks up it happens, and I’m going to make sure that the business plan stacks up.

MICHAEL BAILEY: So when’s that going to be released? You know, the actual 100 per cent – bang – stamp of approval?

BARNABY JOYCE: Early this year is when I’m hoping for us to get a further indication of where that is. You just judge me by my record. When I started, we had no money to build the Inland Rail, we only had a little bit for repairs and maintenance. Now there’s $14 billion on the table for it. This is not rhetoric, this is the reality. We’re actually building it, it’s actually happening. I on behalf of the Nats, my Nationals colleagues, went in and fought for it, got it, and we’re building it. When we say we’re going to build it to Gladstone, we actually are. Other people talk about it, but you’ve got to go back through their record and say, “Well, where did you actually ever build any of it?” You know, the Labor Party always says they were going to build it. Well, they never did. They didn’t. It never happened under them. This is what’ll happen here. If it wasn’t for us, you wouldn’t be talking about the Toowoomba to Gladstone link because there’d be no other link from Toowoomba down to Melbourne.

MICHAEL BAILEY: Yeah, well, 10 points to Senator Matt Canavan, too. He’s always, you know, right behind the coal miners, unlike other parties. They say yes, but then they turn around and have a bit of a snicker and, you know, it gives them support for the people down south who don’t know anything about Central Queensland.

BARNABY JOYCE: The best way to check them out, like, if Mr Albanese comes through and says “Oh, right”, so when we build the link – and we will – from Toowoomba down to Gladstone, you’re quite happy with us opening up the coal mines that are in between those links and you’re quite happy telling the people in your seat of Grayndler in inner suburban Sydney that you’re supporting opening up new coal mines, aren’t you, Anthony Albanese? Of course, he won’t wish for it down in Sydney. You won’t hear boo about it down there. So you’ve got to say, “Well, mate, I don’t know, how fair dinkum are you, or do you just think that we believe that you say one thing here and another thing down there and get away with it?”

MICHAEL BAILEY: Look, I tell you what, we could talk for ages, but news is going to beat us. Have a safe trip to Gladstone and keep spreading that word and the hype for us, okay?

BARNABY JOYCE: Okay. Good on you. Good morning, Central Queensland.

MICHAEL BAILEY: That’s Barnaby Joyce, the Deputy Prime Minister. He’s a firm believer in, of course, jobs, jobs, jobs. Without the coal mining and other associated works that go with it, I think we’d be in serious trouble, absolutely serious trouble.